In “Shut Up & Draw,” we learned visual language is not the same as art. Judging by this masterpiece, who would know there is even a difference.
Part I: With discussions of a decidedly low-tech communication tool, the author begins his memoir of mayhem and interactive insight, My Big Phat Geek Treading: Lessons Learned While Walking Amongst the Techies.
These are not the crayon-infused drawings of a kindergartener. They are, instead, the doodlings of a visually challenged, 48-year-old, left-brained editor who attended the SxSw session “Shut Up & Draw.”
I figure such a decidedly low-tech topic seems an apt first installment of my digital dalliance at the interactive festival held this past weekend in Austin. But don’t equate such seemingly archaic communication tools — the napkin and ink pen — with obsolescence. Au, contraire, mon ami.
Session Title: Shut Up & Draw: A Non-Artist Way to Think Visually
I dropped out of a YMCA art class at the tender age of 9. So, it was liberating to learn, in the words of illustrator Sunni Brown, one of the session panelists, that “visual language is not the same as art.” Brown also told us “perfection is not the point,” a non-goal I took to heart as evidenced by the aforementioned drawings.
To my overly logical, linear manner of stumbling through life, however, those sketches represent an underused mode of exchange and rumination. It’s this type of visual communication, said Brown, that leads to “improved thinking and that’s the point of this [session],” an objective shared by the two other panelists who shared the dais: illustrators and writers Jessica Hagy and Dan Roam.
The latter — whose first book, The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas with Pictures, was named the innovation and creativity book of the year by Fast Company, BusinessWeek, and the Times of London — noted the power of simple visual communication, as in Arthur Laffer’s 1974 diagram sketched out on a bar wipe. As legend has it, that simple graph, which illustrated how reducing the tax rate in turn increases taxable income, gave rise to Reaganomics. In many circles, Laffer’s sketch is considered THE most influential napkin drawing, ever.
There was much more discussed in the session. Here are a few additional highlights:
More from Sunni Brown:
3 reasons visual communication is lacking:
1) There’s a nationwide lunacy around visual language
– Visual language is typically not emotive, as is art. It’s not meant to be beautiful.
– Visual language is not about ambiguity for the audience — it’s meant to be very clear. It’s more about relaying meaning, quickly and simply.
2) We have a strong tendency to judge our drawing abilities.
– Perfection is not the point with visual language.
– Improved thinking is the point.
– Pursue the content.
3) We don’t know how to use it — visual language — at work.
– Literacy, including the visual kind, allows you to participate fully in society and influence your coworkers.
More from Dan Roam:
Tale of Two Charts
– Austin Goolsby, a former economic adviser to President Obama. His economic-centric charts influenced the Occupy Movement.
– Glenn Beck, the conservative radio and TV host. His rantings with chalk, influenced the Tea Party.
In both instances two very different groups have been influenced by illustrations.
They’re both using pictures to convince.
The Takeaway: If you want to convince someone, draw them a picture.
For more nuggets of wisdom gleaned from the session, check out the tweets listed below. For treasure troves of knowledge, visit the panelists websites:
For more about the Shut & Draw session, click here.
My attendance at SxSw was made possible by an overly generous declaration of my worth by Red Barn Media Group, an innovative custom publishing company, for which I’m proud to work. We’re the creators of advanced content ™ and really fine human beings. If you’d like to learn more about how we can create compelling, credible content that connects readers and viewers to your products and services, please contact us via our website.
Tweets from “Shut Up & Draw”
Dan Roam: Reaganomics began with drawing on a napkin. “Who says drawings don’t have power?” #sxsw #rapidviz
For great thoughts on visuals and how knuckleheads like me can draw, see Jessica Hagy’s thisisindexed.com
Dan Roam: Studies show … “If you want to convince someone, draw them a picture.” #sxsw #rapidviz
Sunni Brown: We have a strong tendency to judge our drawing abilities. Perfection is not the point. Improved thinking is. #sxsw #rapidviz
Sunni Brown: Visual language not about ambiguity for the audience. Visual language enhances understanding. #sxsw #rapidviz
Sunni Brown: Unlike art, visual language not about ambiguity for the audience. Visual language to enhance understanding. #sxsw #rapidviz